Deadheads in Atlantic City

The following is an expunged scene from my Grateful Dead script Wave That Flag:


Davis, Skylar, Chig and Gomi enter the Trump Taj Mahal Casino, crowded with people, including some Deadheads. They walk down the carpeted passageway between hundreds of slot machines and gaming tables.

SKYLAR (Stopping at a Wheel of Fortune slot machine): Oh, Wheel of Fortune!

GOMI: You don’t want to do that. They’ll just steal your money.

SKYLAR: But I like Wheel of Fortune.

Skylar inserts a dollar bill and does a full dancing spin before pulling on the lever. She loses.

SKYLAR: Oh, spit and curses.

She does another dancing spin, pulls down the arm and loses again.

GOMI: What did I tell you?

Skylar puts in another dollar and does another spin.

CHIG (Nodding across the aisle): What about some Blackjack, man?

DAVIS: I’m game.

Chig, Gomi and Davis sit down at the Blackjack table, each putting out $40-60 dollars. DEALER, an older Chinese man, looks them over.


Each shows their identifications and sit down. Chig and Davis place down $20 bets, Gomi $5.

DEALER: $20 minimum, sir.

GOMI: $20?

DEALER: That is correct, sir.

Gomi puts out the $20. Dealer deal cards and beats all hands with a 20. Each place another $20 bet.

DEALER: Bets are in?

GOMI (Citing Grateful Dead’s Loser): I know a little something you will never know.

DEALER: Bets are in.

Dealer deals cards. Chig gets a 17, Davis gets an 18 and Gomi two Kings for 20.

GOMI: (Citing Loser): Last fair deal in the country.

Dealer reveals his own Blackjack.

GOMI: If I had a gun for every ace he’s drawn!

WAITRESS: Cocktails?

CHIG: Scotch, rocks.

GOMI: Make it two.

DAVIS (Laying out another $20 bill): Budweiser, thanks.

Dealer exchanges the money for a green chip, which Davis places on a bet. Dealer deals Chig a Blackjack.

DAVIS: Nice job, man!

Chig stacks his winnings, $30, on top of his original bet.

DEALER: Bets are in.

Chig is dealt another winning hand – a 19 – while Dealer goes bust. A group of people – some of them Deadheads – stop to watch. Davis places his money, now $100, on the next hand.

DEALER: Bets are in.

Chig is dealt a 17, facing Dealer’s King.

CHIG: Hit me.

DAVIS: No, man. You’ve got a 17.

CHIG: He’s a got a 20. (To Dealer) Am I right?

CHIG is dealt a 3, giving him 20. People in the crowd mutter exclamations, “Sweet!”, etc.

GOMI (High-fiving a Deadhead behind him): Nice hit!

CHIG (After a moment): Stay.

Dealer reveals an 18. Chig takes the money, hesitates before placing it all on his next bet.

DAVIS: All of it? No.

DEADHEAD IN CROWD: All of it, man!

DEALER: Bets are in.

Chig is dealt another Blackjack.

DAVIS: Blackjack! Holy shit!

DEALER: Sir. Language.

CHIG (Citing Loser, like Gomi): Last fair deal in the country!

Chig stacks the $500 in chips and pushes it all back out.

GOMI: Last fair deal in the town.

DEALER: Bets are in.

Chig is dealt a 16, facing Dealer’s 4.

CHIG: Stand.

Dealer flips his 4 to reveal a 7.

DAVIS: 11? Holy shit. No!


CHIG (Citing Loser again): Just a cup of cold coffee.

The crowd begins to break up just as Dealer places another 4 down, giving him 15.

GOMI: Gonna get up in the morning…

Dealer places a King down, busting.

CHIG: Bust!

The people return to watch, others joining.

CHIG (Giving him a hard high-five): Last fair deal in the country!

SKYLAR (Arriving): Spit and curses. You’re winning!

CHIG stacks his chips, the crowd of people leaning in anxiously.

DEALER: Color up, sir?

GOMI (Citing Grateful Dead’s Deal): Before you let his deal go down?

SKYLAR: You’re winning. Cool.

Waitress returns with the drinks. Chig gives her a $10 chip and pushes the rest back out as a bet.

GOMI: Like Lyle and his crazy mad weed, man.

DEADHEAD IN CROWD (Citing Loser): Come to daddy on an inside straight!

DEALER: Bets are in.

Chig drinks off half of his beer and looks down to see a pair of Aces.

GOMI: Can’t split those. (Pause) No money.

CHIG: You can look the wide world over…

Chig taps the table, indicating he would like a hit, and gets a Queen of Diamonds.

CHIG (Citing Loser again): I can tell the Queen of Diamonds–

Davis taps the table again and gets a Nine of Diamonds.

GOMI, CHIG, DAVIS (together): By the way she shines!

They watch as Dealer gets an 18.

CHIG (Pushing in chips): Color up.

DEALER: Yes, sir.

SKYLAR (Spinning around): Let’s go swimming!

Travel Thursday: Gordon Gibson’s “Bull of the Woods”

Gordon Gibson was a pioneer of large-scale logging in British Columbia and writes of his life with bravado and wit. This extract relates days of old, when tipping was a sign of manhood.

One day I telephoned Louise from Powell River. I told her that I could have three days in San Francisco and asked her to go out with me. When she agreed, I chartered a plane and flew to Vancouver, then caught the flight south.

Travel Thursday: Gordon Gibson's "Bull of the Woods"

I met an interesting character on the plane. He asked me to give him two tens for a twenty-dollar bill and then offered one of the tens to the air hostess as a tip. When she turned it down, he put it in the envelope and left it on the seat ahead.

By chance we took the same bus from the air airport to the St. Francis Hotel. After we haad registered he asked me to join him in the bar. When I excused myself to phone to Louise, he suggested thaat she get a friend and thaat all of us join him for the evening. I thought he was a little forward but he seemed like a nice enough fellow.

It turned out to be a very embarrassing evening for me because we went to the very first nightclub that I had ever been in. It was private club having a fancy brass elevator. I saw him give the elevator operator a ten-dollar bill. I began to feel uneasy.

We went to the bar and he ordered a special bottle of champagne. I threw a ten-dollar bill out to pay for the next one. I thought that was big money. he insisted that we were his guests and told me to give the money to the bartender as a tip. I said, “I’ll take the goddamned money back. If you’re going to do the paying, you can damned well do the tipping too.” Later in the men’s room, I demanded, “Have you counterfeit money? How in the hell did you get so much?”

“That’s none of your damn business, Gibson,” he said. “I’ve had a lot of money left to me by my dad and I’m going down to Santa Anita to run my racehorses. I imposed on you by inviting myself for the evening, so Ii would like to pay the bill.” That was the first and last time I was ever impressed by a big spender.

Louise thought that I was a cheapskate because I let another man pay for all of the drinks and then took back my tip. She told me that evening almost ruined our relationship.

So here is thinking about this

Things seem to be intact. Buildings stand. The sky Holds up too. It is just us. We are here doing what we do, as we always did. We are here in this warped world that we created. And we are in it. It is our creation. We co-habitat.

So here is thinking about this

We do it because we are supposed to, because that is what we do. More importantly, what we are. I remember you. You remember me. Or do you? Ah, that is the thing.

So here is thinking about this

Remember when we did that, remembered one another? You remember that? That is my doubt. Because you don’t. Remember when we did that?

So here is thinking about this

No, that is just an image. It was something other than that.

Kinetic Thinking

The irony of this blog is that I think best when I am moving. When I write this, I don’t. Move that is. And I think less. The point is my brain works best when my body is moving.

Kinetic Thinking

Working out in the gym has always been my constant – the elliptical and stationary bike – but driving works too. I could drive and think forever.

Kinetic Thinking

As long as I am moving. That’s the thing. Got to keep moving. Or else I’m dead. Like a shark or a sea turtle.

Kinetic Thinking

Young Chronicles IV: Moosonee to New Liskeard

June 8

8:45 am Waiting for the train from Toronto. We were one hour and five minutes late.

1:15 pm We have been on the train for four hours and 45 minutes. I have seen two moose and seven rabbit. And the trip isn’t that exciting.

3:30 pm We came to Moosonee on the train. We took a boat to Moose Factory, and it was raining hard. I got a headband at our hotel.

Young Chronicles IV: Moosonee to New Liskeard

June 9

We had breakfast. Then we walked to the train station. It was raining really hard. We left Moosonee and are going to Cochrane.

2:20 pm We came to Cochrane and now we are going to New Liskeard. 8715 is the mileage now. I was drawing two pictures on the train.

Mileage 8855

Arrived in New Liskeard and we had a pajama party. And this is what we did. 1. Cooked marshmallows 2. Played horseshoes 3. Tried to skip rocks 4. We would launch a board in the water and then see how many times we could hit it 5. We had Kool Aid 6. We began to try to get the a grownup down 7. The grownups would try to get us down 8. We had super fights 9. We gave three cheers for Mr. Fleming because he thought of the trip 10. We played Hide and Go Seek, but in a different way. If you were caught by Mr. Fleming, you would have to go to bed. Soon I was caught and went to bed at 10:40. I went to sleep at 11:00

Top Ten Rocks

Like everyone, I’m always looking to make sense of my life through the things I’ve done and collected. I’ve sorted my concert tickets, taken on-line challenges and put virtual pins in virtual maps. But when it comes down it, everything is about rocks. I have been collecting them since hitchhiking across Canada in 1983, accumulating hundred in jars and spreading them on shelves. And so here they are, my top ten!

All together in a group shot for some perspective.

Top Ten Rocks

Pops on his Death Bed

“I always thought you were a bit of an ass.” Pops looked cheery, almost completely alert.

I hadn’t expected him to be so alive; he hadn’t said a word the last time I came to visit. “Just a bit of an ass.”

“You can’t mind me saying that. You’ve had it coming with all of your nonsense.”

“Well, it’s better to hear you say that than you being dead.”

“You know what my Gramps would have called you, yeah? A real son of a bitch.”

“He did call me that.”

Pops slid down in his bed and looked off to the side. “Get me that bottle, will you?”

I looked around for a bottle of rye – that was his drink of choice – but couldn’t find anything. “I don’t see it.”

“It’s right in front of you, you idiot.”

There was only a plastic pee bottle by the sink.


“I have to pee.” He shook his hand at me. “Can’t you see that?”

I gave it to him, but he just held it absently and then lay on his side.

“Want me to help?”

“A bit of an ass.” He closed his eyes. “More than a bit.”

He died a few weeks after that.

Travel Thursday: Paddle to the Amazon

Don Starkell documents his two-year canoeing odyssey from Winnipeg, Canada to Belem, Brazil in the book Paddle to the Amazon. This remarkable journey is full of fascinating details of the climate, water, people and animals along the way.

Travel Thursday: Paddle to the Amazon

Rio Orinoco, Venezuela, January 17, 1982 A couple of days ago, west of Puerto Ordaz, we were trailed for over an hour by five dolphins, or toninas, whose silvery skin was blotched with pink patches and whose dorsal fins were small and soft-looking, unlike the more prominent fins we are used to. From time to time, one of them would rocket towards us on the surface and then veer away sharply as it got to the canoe, doing its playful best to give us a good splash.

Rio Orinoco, Venezuela, January 22 A while ago several of our friendly toninas gathered around our campsite, poking their noses and eyes above water to see what we were up to. We realize now some of them have been following us for three or four days. Many of them have distinctive pink blotches, so that we’ve come to recognize them as individuals. The day before,we were surprised to see one that was entirely pink.

Travel Thursday: Paddle to the Amazon

Rio Orinoco, Venezuela, January 27 We had a magical experience as we left camp this morning. Several big toninas were swimming along in front of us, half watching us as we stroked. Every so often, one of them would break from the rest and power in toward us, jumping into the air a few feet from the canoe and doing a somersault, sending a high spray of water over us. We’ve begun to suspect that they don’t follow our canoe merely for friendship but because we tend to scare the smaller fish out from along the banks.

The Fear II: Maple Leaf Gardens

The second time that The Fear struck was on my birthday. I think my eleventh. My father gave me two tickets to see the Toronto Maple Leafs. A Leaf hockey game for me then was the ultimate experience. I took a friend as my father didn’t really like hockey and thought that I might be happier on my own. The seats were great – center-ice reds – and we were up on the visiting team early. And then it hit me again. It wasn’t as strong as the first time. I seemed almost to have control over it. I could rationalize it.

The Fear II: Maple Leaf Gardens

Why was I sitting here watching this nonsense? Who gave a damn who scored what and when? The whole thing was a farce designed to brainwash and control. Nobody cared about winning. It was the popcorn, furs and dinners, the money, being part of the scenery that people cared about. The blue leaf could just as well be a red wing. I especially hated the silence between play, the organ occasionally filling that with carnival tunes. Eventually, it passed, but the evening had been depressing. We had won, but I didn’t give a damn. I just wanted to go home and get into bed.

Some Things To Get Out

I played goal for the Canadian Women’s national soccer team in a game against Costa Rica. I made a couple of solid saves, no rebounds, and we won the game. I am still surprised that I never get any recognition for that.

I flirted with Kim Basinger when she was young and was on the verge of kissing her after my joke about expensive encyclopedias. But then I lost her in the crowd.

I went to prison or camp after I told everyone I wanted to join the student government because they got away with spanking everyone. I actually went down the stairs, yelling that I was changing my major to PoliSci.

I awoke, thinking that I could use all of this in Mina. It was all so real. I would just have to flesh out the characters in a dramatic setting. And then I realized it worked better for Aqaara as that was set entirely on a spaceship.

And then I realized, just now, that none of it worked at all.